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Center for Rhetoric in Society

Center for Rhetoric in Society

Who We Are

The Center for Rhetoric in Society (CRS) was established in 2006 in Virginia Tech’s Department of English. The mission of the CRS is to engage in and promote research about rhetoric and its uses in a variety of social contexts. Rhetoric is always transactional, an exchange between writers/speakers/designers and their audiences in contexts that condition rhetoric’s success or failure. The CRS’s research about rhetoric is inherently multidisciplinary and emphasizes the richness of diversity in all the contexts of rhetoric’s use. The CRS supports faculty research projects that fulfill the mission of the Center, and it sponsors a variety of educational events and outreach programs (lectures, workshops, and an annual conference), thus extending the CRS’s research into multiple contexts and communities, both academic and public.

Director for The Center of Rhetoric in Society

Dr. Bruce McComiskey sits for a headshot wearing a blue shirt against a dark backdrop.

Bruce McComiskey is Professor of Rhetoric and Writing in the English department. He specializes in ancient and modern rhetorics, composition theory and history, and the discipline of English studies, always paying close attention to the intersections among language, epistemology, and ideology.

McComiskey’s books include Rhetoric and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Penn State UP, 2021), Post-Truth Rhetoric and Composition (Utah State UP, 2017), Dialectical Rhetoric (Utah State UP, 2015), Gorgias and the New Sophistic Rhetoric (Southern Illinois UP, 2002), and Teaching Composition as a Social Process (Utah State UP, 2000). He is editor of English Studies Reimagined (NCTE, 2022), Microhistories of Composition (Utah State UP, 2016), and English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s) (NCTE, 2006). He is co-editor (with Cynthia Ryan) of City Comp: Identities, Spaces, Practices (SUNY Press, 2003). Some of McComiskey’s work has been translated into Chinese, Korean, and Polish.

Past Advisory Committee Faculty Members

Jim Dubinskey (Rhetoric and Writing), Shannon Bell (Sociology), Katie Carmichael (Linguistics), Marc Edwards (Engineering), Rebecca Hester (STS), Steve Parks (UVA, Rhetoric and Writing), Georgeta Pourchot (Public and International Affairs), Samarth Swarup (UVA, Bioinformatics), and Quinn Warnick (TLOS)

Current Rhetoric and Writing Graduate Research Assistants

Priyanka Ganguly smiles at the camera.

Priyanka Ganguly is a PhD candidate in the Rhetoric and Writing Program at Virginia Tech. She specializes in rhetorics of health and medicine, transnational organizational communication, and technical and professional communication. Her dissertation explores the transnational issues of power and negotiation and (mis)articulations in the context of global maternal nutrition content creation and decision making.

Ganguly published in English for Specific Purposes, Xchanges, Technical Communication Quarterly, and SIGDOC conference proceedings. Recently, she co-authored a book chapter, titled “COVID and Disability: Tactical Responses to Normative Vaccine Communication in Appalachia.” She presented in several national and international conferences, including CCCCs, SIGDOC, RHM Symposium, CCW, and ATTW.

Chloe Robertson stands in front of a window smiling and wearing a white shirt.

Chloe Jade Robertson is a PhD Candidate in the Rhetoric and Writing Program at Virginia Tech. She specializes in cultural rhetorics and technical communication. Her dissertation analyzes the difficult technical communication situations international graduate students face during their time in the United States and how they gain expertise as technical communicators through forced resilience.

Robertson has published alongside her peers in Technical Communication Quarterly with the article "Slack, Social Justice, and Online Technical Communication Pedagogy" (2022) and wrote a book review titled "Dismantling Anti-Blackness and Uplifting African American Rhetoric: A Review Essay" (2021) in Composition Studies. She has presented at a number of conferences including SIGDOC, CCCCs, and Rocky Mountain MLA.

Past Graduate Research Assistants

Temitope Ojedele, Amilia Evans, Tarryn Abrahams, Iris Farrou, Brian Gogan, Cassandra Hockman, Ke Hu, Heidi Lawrence, Laura Lane, Savannah Paige Murray, Megan O’Neill, Ashley Patriarca, Alexis Priestley, Katharine Randall, Jessie Rogers, Kelly Scarff, and Tana Schiewer.

About the Conference

The VT Conference on Rhetoric and Writing is held each year on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, nestled in the heart of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Every fall, teachers, scholars, and administrators from around the region gather to present their best ideas and discuss the most pressing issues in rhetoric and writing today. Calls for proposals are typically circulated in late spring, and the conference takes place in late fall. 

The VT Conference on Rhetoric and Writing is sponsored by Virginia Tech's Center for Rhetoric in Society. For more information about the conference, or if you have any questions, please contact us at

Land Acknowledgement

Upcoming Conference

  • Call for Proposals
  • Registration
  • Conference Program
  • Attending the Conference
  • Conference Committee

Past Conferences

Dr. Sharon Yam presents her keynote in front of a projector populated with slides for her talk.

"Writing Remains" 
Saturday Sep. 23, 2023

Keynote Speaker
Dr. Sharon Yam, “Political Issues are Dog Issues: The Rhetoric and Praxis of Trans-Species Justice in Force-Free Dog Training”

Conference Committee
Bruce McComiskey, Temitope Ojedele, Chloe Robertson, Sahajiya Nath

Temitope Ojedele and Piyanka Ganguly sit at a table talking.

"Remaking Rhetoric in Times of Uncertainty"
Saturday Oct. 1, 2022

Keynote Speaker
Dr. Tamika L. Carey, “Think of This as a Workbook: Black Women’s Curatorial Literacies During Times of  Certain Uncertainty”

Conference Committee
Bruce McComiskey, Amila Evans, Marissa Buccilli

Dr. Derek Handley

Derek G. Handley is an assistant professor in the English Department and affiliated faculty in the Urban Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Before arriving at UWM, Derek was a Chamberlain Project Fellow in English and Black Studies at Amherst College and a Predoctoral Mellon Fellow at the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference at Emory University.

He is a Navy veteran who used the GI Bill to earn his Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University. His book project, Struggle for the City: Rhetorics of Citizenship and Resistance during the Black Freedom Movement, looks at the rhetorical strategies and tactics used by African-American communities in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and St. Paul, MN as they resisted urban renewal. 

Dr. Sherri Craig

From Spring 2022 through Spring 2023, two CRS Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) helped Dr. Sherri Craig conduct research on institutional rhetorics and race-based public statements of support. This research began with a document collection of over 100 texts and has evolved into producing preliminary data analyses, a code book, annotated bibliographies, and detailed notes. The impact of this research extends into recognition of the Juneteenth holiday by colleges and universities in Virginia and their complex histories of owning humans and housing plantations. CRS GRAs were primarily responsible for organizing the texts collected, suggesting revisions for the codebook, and discussing ideas and interpretations of the materials. This research contributes to the development of a book proposal on universities and post-George Floyd reforms.

Dr. Julie Gerdes smiles at the camera with a backdrop of Hokie Stone.

Dr. Julie Gerdes

In the 2022-2023 academic year, Dr. Julie Gerdes worked with two graduate students on three projects. In the Fall, one CRS GRA worked on cleaning up and organizing transcripts from an oral history project on Latinx perspectives on the COVID vaccine. Meanwhile, another CRS GRA supported a cooperative extension project funded by the CDC by working with Virginia State University collaborators to develop usable vaccine information materials for a public-facing website. In the Spring, one of the CRS GRAs was instrumental to and highly engaged in designing the review and actively screening titles and abstracts for a literature review, which will inform a DA 2.0 project proposal in the summer 2023 and an NSF PiPP grant in the Fall. This project aims to infuse community engagement in computational modeling of pandemic pathogens, organoid engineering for modeling potential leaps of zoonotic disease to humans, and rapid drug repurposing to combat emerging infectious disease outbreaks.

Dr. Cana Itchuaqiyaq looks into the camera in front of a building built in Hokie Stone.
Dr. Chris Lindgren smiles at the camera while standing in a building built of glass and Hokie Stone.

Dr. Cana Itchuaqiyaq and Dr. Chris Lindgren

Dr. Itchuaqiyaq and Dr. Lindgren’s Rematriation Project brought two particular sub-projects to the CRS during the 2022-2023 academic year. First, they continued to use the CRS office space for the cataloging work of the Caleb Pungowiyi collection of indigenous documents. Second, two CRS GRAs helped to develop a new curriculum of educational videos, which will help community’s train themselves and others how to do different phases of archival work. During the Fall semester, the GRAs learned about metadata and cataloging in the scope of archiving. The Spring involved drafting an outline of videos under those two broader categories.